Rukiya Bernard Talks One Winter Weekend, Van Helsing, and Supernatural [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Saturday night on Hallmark Channel, Winterfest continues with One Winter Weekend. Taylor Cole reunites with her My Summer Prince co-star, Jack Turner, and in a twist we don’t get to see very often on Hallmark, they’re accompanied by a second couple with an equal storyline, played by Van Helsing‘s Rukiya Bernard and The Strain‘s Dewshane Williams. Last week I spoke with Bernard about the movie, her Van Helsing role as Doc, and guesting for the second time on Supernatural.
Sunday night on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, Holly Robinson Peete kicks off Morning Show Mystery, and Bernard recognizes that with the launch of that film series and One Winter Weekend, Hallmark is responding to fans who are demanding more inclusive representation and she thinks they’re on the right track.
“God bless Hallmark. They know the flack that theyâ€™re under. Theyâ€™re making the effort to be more diverse,” she says. “Their ratings just keep going higher and higher, which means that the net is being cast wider, and they donâ€™t want to alienate new viewers. That’s my instinct.”
Bernard has appeared in a handful of Hallmark movies, most recently last month’s Christmas in Evergreen, and was delighted to get One Winter Weekend as the follow up. “It was completely out of the blue. I’m a local actor here in Vancouver and I’ve worked for Hallmark quite a bit and done a number of their movies. I got an audition and booked it pretty quickly. It was pretty simple in that way,” she explains.
She was especially thrilled to play a BFF who’s essentially a co-lead. “Big time. Big time. Big time. And I reached out to Hallmark and said, ‘Thank you guys!’ Iâ€™m always [asking], ‘Why doesnâ€™t the BFF have a story? The BFF must have a story. Why else would [the lead] be friends with her?” she shares.
“When I did the initial audition, I didn’t have a script, which is fine, [because] with Hallmark, you know it’s going to be a happy ending. The toughest thing was, ‘What kind of shenanigans are we going to get into?’ When I got the script and saw more [of my character] Megan, and more Megan, and oooh, a boy, I was totally stoked for it. I was really excited.”
Her favorite scenes in the film involved eating and figuring out how to work with her arm in a cast. “The fondue scene…was definitely a highlight. Anything where I can eat on camera, I’m there. The fondue was so good and [I kept eating] take after take after take. I didn’t even eat lunch,” she laughs.
“All of the scenes with the cast and arm band were a lot of fun, and figuring out how to do stuff [with them on]…I found those very amusing. [It also coincides with] Megan starting to let go of her yoke to [her job. And] she’s getting a little flirty now with Shawn.”
The role of Doc on Van Helsing was a breakthrough for Bernard because it was her first regular series role, and she got it off one audition, only to temporarily panic when she realized what the show actually was. “I knew nothing [going in]. I’ll never forget. I was so scared when I got the script. It was a different experience. I only auditioned once. Usually you get the call back and the network. It’s not unheard of to audition five times,” she explains.
“This was [my first audition] of pilot season. Next thing I knew, Iâ€™m getting the call that I’m Doc. And it was my first series lead, and I was over the moon. And I got to be in Vancouver, which is fantastic because I’m mom and I want to be with my kids.”
“When I got the first six scripts, I remember calling my friend and saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ and she [talked me down]. The vampire stuff was the most terrifying. There’s different kinds of vampires, and they’re just in the process of creating the show. When you start a show, you have an idea, but you don’t know how it gets executed.”
“Everyone was so committed and there were so many ideas. It was fantastic. I was in really good hands. We started shooting the vampire stuff and I just went for it. [Director and Executive Producer] Michael Nankin was super creative and helpful as well. They liked what I was doing, so I just kept doing it. It was quite the collaborative experience. It’s quite collaborative in general. They really like all of our inputs.”
Looking ahead to next season, Bernard has a wish list for Doc. “I have no idea where [Season 3] is going to go. The writerâ€™s room is open and they’re cramming the scripts in. I’d love for her to have a hug. She’s such an indecisive person. What does that look like when someone is hitting on you,”Â Bernard says about her potential new romance toward the end of Season 2.
“It probably goes over her head until she realizes it and then she really goes for it. She can be pretty reckless. I think that would be interesting to play. Iâ€™d [also] like to see the science of the blood that she was working on with Scarlett and Vanessaâ€™s Mom, but who knows?”
Van Helsing is female-heavy in front of and behind the camera, and Bernard welcomed that environment. “It was really refreshing to have a female lead headlining the show. They treat her just like they treat the dudes. She goes through the wringer,” she points out. “Rightfully so. I think when the vampire apocalypse happens, they don’t take it easy on her because she’s a a chick. I think we need more of that.”
Bernard wrote, produced, directed and acted in the 2013 short film “The BFF Club,” and would happily follow in the footsteps of fellow castmates Jonathan Scarfe and Paul Johansson to direct an episode. “I would love to direct an episode if they’d have me,” she says.
Last fall, Bernard appeared in “The Big Empty,” her second episode of Supernatural, following Season 7’s “The Mentalists,” and had a ball going back. “It was fantastic. That show is such a well-oiled machine. I didn’t know if the boys would remember me because they act alongside thousands of actors yearly,” she says.
“My first day on set, my first scene was with Jensen [Ackles]. We were on location, there were tons of fans outside. He stopped and looked at me, and said, ‘You’ve been on the show before, about seven years ago. I remember you. It’s nice to have you again in a larger capacity.’ I couldn’t believe he remembered.”
“Itâ€™s not just Jensen and Jared that have been on the show since the beginning. A lot of the crew have been on the show since the beginning. Theyâ€™re such a welcoming family. I’d do that show in a heartbeat again and again and again. It’s so easy.”
Bernard’s career spans TV and film and she isn’t beholden to one format more than another. “I love doing TV because you get to carry a character for an extended time. Weâ€™re in the golden age of TV and characters are much more cinematic [but in TV you also] move so fast,” she says.
“Film is much more exploratory and its own entity and you can explore the character more. I’d [also] love to do a play. Iâ€™m a fan of good storytelling and good characters. As long as you have that, I’m in.”
One Winter Weekend premieres Saturday at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel. Check back tomorrow for a preview and exclusive interview with Taylor Cole. You can stream both seasons of Van Helsing now and it’s coming to Netflix, too. Season 3 will return later in 2018.
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